UK Creationism: The Noah’s Ark Zoo

WHEN it comes to creationism, our cousins in the UK are sometimes just as daft as we are in the US. Today, however, the Brits may have pulled out ahead in this contest. Judge for yourself, dear reader.

In London’s Daily Mail, the UK’s second biggest-selling daily newspaper, we read The zoo that believes in Noah’s Ark: Creationist attraction is approved for school trips. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A zoo that promotes creationism and believes that the story of Noah’s Ark is supported by science has become an approved school trip destination.

The move has provoked a war of words between the Christians who run Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm and those who believe it will expose children to ‘dogma’.

What do they mean by “an approved school trip destination”? Let’s read on:

Visitors to the attraction are invited to question the traditional view of evolution and consider instead ‘the case for a Creator’ – with information boards challenging established science such as fossil records, carbon dating and the speed of light.

Is that place a zoo or a lunatic asylum? We continue:

Critics say the decision to award it a Government kitemark is ‘entirely inappropriate’.

What’s a kitemark? Why don’t these people speak English? Here’s more:

But bosses at the family-run zoo, in Wraxall, near Bristol, insist that workshops for children merely cover the national science curriculum and do not include discussion of religion. They admit that youngsters visiting the centre are free to go to an area where posters and charts advance its religious beliefs.

It sounds like a wonderful place — for creationists. But we’re wondering about the government’s involvement. And that “kitemark” business. Moving along:

James Gray, education officer at the British Humanist Association, condemned the award of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom ‘quality badge’ – a scheme devised by the last government.

Aaaargh!! What’s a “quality badge”? We’re not getting anything from the Daily Mail, so we went to Wikipedia. They came through. In Kitemark we’re told:

The Kitemark is a UK product and service quality certification mark which is owned and operated by The British Standards Institution (BSI Group). … To obtain Kitemark certification, products and services are assessed by BSI Product Services to ensure that they meet the requirements of the relevant British, European, trade association or international specification or standard. … The Kitemark is not a legal requirement, but is often used as a point of differentiation in competitive markets and is widely trusted.

So it’s sort of like the Underwriters Laboratories certification, but with wider applicability. That’s what was given the Noah’s Ark Zoo? As for the other mystery, here’s the website of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. It’s a government agency and they gave a “quality badge” to the Zoo — whatever that is.

Ah, they have a quality badge link, which informs us:

The Learning Outside the Classroom [LOtC] Quality Badge is a nationally recognised benchmark that brings together all existing safety and quality badges into one easily identifiable mark of quality. … The Quality Badge is awarded to organisations which have pledged to engage in an ongoing process to sustain good-quality learning outside the classroom and have demonstrated that they meet six quality indicators.

We’ll skip their “quality indicators” because if the Noah’s Ark Zoo got a quality badge, the quality indicators don’t mean anything.

So we’re all clear now about what happened — the Noah’s Ark Zoo got one of those official education quality badges, and they were awarded a kitemark too. How grand!

Let’s read on a bit more. They’re still quoting James Gray from the British Humanist Association:

‘Teachers and parents look to the council for assurance that children will experience high quality educational visits that meet the relevant government guidelines. Awarding this zoo a quality badge risks exposing hundreds of children to anti-scientific dogma.

That’s rather straightforward. However, there’s another side to this dispute:

But a spokesman for the zoo, run by trained priest Anthony Bush and his wife Christina, said: ‘Our religious element-is simply not forced on or taught to children in workshops at Noah’s Ark and thus we believe the BHA are misguided in their criticism.’

This is how the article ends:

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom said it checks venues thoroughly and that children should experience a range of viewpoints that challenge their minds.

In your Curmudgeon’s always humble opinion, this entire situation is flat-out crazy.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “UK Creationism: The Noah’s Ark Zoo

  1. The zoo will never float.

  2. I don’t know, it might be educational. “Now here, children, you can see creationists in their natural habitat. Oops, I’m sorry, that’s Sultana the Siamang gibbon.”

  3. retiredsciguy

    Someone at The British Standards Institution is clearly not doing their job.

    Ken Ham gets wind of this, he’ll set up a Creation Museum Annex in England.

  4. cnocspeireag

    I haven’t visited the zoo, but it’s website is informative.
    Certain stages of education in the UK are assessed via fairly trivial ‘outcomes’, a series of boxes to be ticked.
    The Noah’s Ark zoo seems to have set about to provide easy evidence of a lot of these outcomes in a series of short courses. They probably do it well and many entertaining activities are available on the site. The subject of creationism seems to be absent from this provision. One can hardly blame teachers who make use of it.
    I can’t help but be suspicious. Investigation of their website suggests ulterior motives, including areas best described as ‘controversial’ or ‘batsh*t insane’. The actual park may not show signs of this, though, and the inspectors may have been unaware of it. I hope so at least.